Friday, September 12, 2014

Baseball in Tokyo

Generally, Japanese people love blending in and being part of the group. In the Japanese company that I worked in, we were encouraged to wear dark suits with white shirts (no bright colors or bold shirts lest you stand out!), and we went to lunch together (daily), ate dinner and drank together (often), and even did a little group cheer at the end of a night out (seldom). It's so different from American culture, where many of us are raised to try to stand out, be unique, and deserve a gold star.

A byproduct of the focus on supporting the group is that (generalizing again) Japanese people make amazing fans. At baseball games, I'd heard that the fans sang songs and had special coordinated cheers. It was something I wanted to see.

So I went to a Yakult Swallows game. The team is named after its owner the Yakult Corporation, which is known for selling probiotic dairy products. Baseball and probiotics strike me as unlikely bedfellows, but they make it work: one of the swallow mascots runs around with a big yogurt container strapped to its back (I thought it was a jet pack at first, but that doesn't make sense... why would a bird need a jet pack?).

Swallows swag!

The game was at Meiji Jingu stadium, in Shinjuku. They started building the stadium in 1925--Babe Ruth played there in 1934! Check it out:

Meiji Jingu Stadium

On this particular night, the Swallows were playing the Yomiuri Giants. The team is named after (you guessed it) its owner the Yomiuri Group, a media conglomerate. Both the Swallows and the Giants are based in Tokyo so this match up was a bit like the Freeway Series or any other crosstown rivalry in the US.

The fans were as diehard as I hoped. There were self-organized brass bands in the stands; but the best part was when the Swallows scored a run, all the Swallows fans got out their umbrellas and waved them around while singing a song.

There was a lot of food and drink for sale. Beer girls in short skirts with kegs strapped to their backs hiked through the stands. There was ice cream, BBQ ribs, pizza and a substantial sausage platter.

There were cheerleaders too although their uniforms were much more tame than what we see at pro sporting events in the US.

After one of the innings, these ladies in full kimono took the field:

To announce the fireworks:

It was a lot of fun watching the spectacle. The actual game wasn't too bad either!

PS: You can buy your tickets from the copy machines or ticket machines inside 7-11 or Family Mart.


CM said...

Always fun to hear about your Tokyo adventures! I admire you for making such an effort to get out and do things in Japan.

Meredith said...

Sounds like so much fun, without the seemingly obligatory pretentious cynicism of many American fans.

Paragon2Pieces said...

Thanks CM and Meredith. It was a lot of fun!